Green, John. The Fault in Our Stars. New York: Dutton Books, 2012. Print.
Everyone knows someone who has cancer, had cancer or died from cancer.
When I was growing up, I heard about the "C" word but it was always a nebulous "someone" who had it that I didn't know. Also, cancer = death. There was no hope, but I jumped rope and various other fund raising activities to raise money for research. Then cancer hit my family. My aunt was diagnosed my senior year of high school. My vocabulary expanded with medical technology.
Since then, I have had family, friends and former students taken by various cancers. They are not all the same!
Reading John Green's book made me realize that cancer fights to live and our attitude can really make a difference about how we choose to live. Will cancer be the story of our lives or merely a chapter? Is humor gone just because there are tumors present?
The protagonist of the story is Hazel Grace Lancaster. She has spent more time in hospitals than any teenager should. At thirteen, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She finds solace in a book entitled An Imperial Affliction. (I looked; it is not a real book). This book within a book becomes a major plot line, as Hazel writes to the author to find out about what happens to the characters in the book. I was afraid this was foreshadowing that Green would leave me with multiple questions. It would be appropriate because we don't know what happens after our "mark on the universe" is made.
When Hazel meets Augustus Waters he's in remission. As the story unfolds, they become a support to each other. They are sarcastic and honest and frightened and brave. They treat each other normally, in spite of the "bad days" and medical equipment. They can joke about things that only someone with a shared experience will understand. They choose to live in whatever time they have left.
[Side note: At one point Hazel recites William Carlos Williams' poem, "The Red Wheelbarrow" to Augustus. This is a poem I used in the classroom, so I thought it was funny that this, of all poems, was used in the book. It's a personal chuckle moment.]
These are dynamic characters. I became involved with them (twice crying while reading) and rooted for their remission. I wanted them to live happily ever after, but that is not real life. Our "world is not a wish-granting factory" as Hazel often explains. Sometimes the happy ending doesn't come to us on earth.
This book captured me as a reader. I laughed, cried, thought about the "bigger picture" of our existence and questioned those platitudes I have heard myself say. I look forward to reading more books by John Green.
Oh, the title reference is on page 111.